Ask the Coach: How do I keep people accountable?

September 14th, 2018

Accountability is about taking responsibility for your actions, behaviors, mistakes, etc. To some degree it’s about trust – can I be counted on to do what I say I will do, when I say I will do it? Too often in the workplace, and even outside, this doesn’t exist. Here are a few quick things you can do to help improve accountability in yourself and others:


One of the biggest contributors to a lack of accountability is unclear agreements. If agreements are not clear then usually someone is disappointed. Clear agreements have the following:

Who is responsible
What is expected
When it is to be done

In other words, who is doing what, by when. If you don’t have the 3 w’s, you don’t have a clear agreement. In the instance that you have a clear agreement, and it is not completed, then it is your responsibility to discuss what happened, renegotiate the agreement if appropriate and discuss future expectations. One of the expectations I would recommend you become clear on is what you expect to happen in the future if the other party is not able to meet an agreement.


Quite often, accountability is associated with blame. “Who is accountable for this” often can be interpreted as “who is to blame?” If that is the case, people tend to shy away from making clear agreements for the simple fact they don’t want to be blamed later if the agreements aren’t met. This can be a challenge in the workplace because it doesn’t create trust, but in fact, depletes it. How do you get rid of blame? Start by focusing on the problem and looking at your role in creating it. Once you identify your role, it is easier for others to identify theirs and together solve the problem without wasting time pointing fingers at each other. It’s a problem-solving focus versus blaming.


Another contributor to lack of accountability is also consistency. If you are not consistently setting clear agreements and following-up, your results will not be consistent. Accountability once in a while is not accountability. Being accountable is a full-time job so that requires consistency. Follow up regularly on everything important to you. Remember: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Create a calendar you can follow every week to support your goal of consistency. A recommendation: Set your goals and agreements Monday, follow-up Tuesday through Thursday and debrief on Friday looking what worked well, what didn’t and what changes you want to make the following week. By doing this every week you instill a habit in yourself and others.

Look in the Mirror

As a manager or leader, you set the culture. As a result if you’re not personally accountable, others will follow. If you make and keep clear agreements, reduce blame and consistently follow up on what you expect, you’ll increase your chances of improving accountability in your organization and build trust with your team.

For more career, sales, and leadership advice please contact our coaches
Joe Micallef – Sales Coach – email, or call (773) 329 0066
Donna Flynn – Career/Management Coach – email, or call (630) 624-4319